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Sunday, September 30, 2012

RIDE AWAY CANCER and the Road to RUSSIA.




It was January 2011, I was 2 years sober on the 17th and was in Colorado talking on the phone with my friend Mandy Miller who was instrumental in getting me into rehab 2 years earlier so I could get clean and sober. I was nearly a year on the road at the time and was chatting with her about my trip and how it was going. In the course of our conversation I mentioned that I was looking for a more meaningful direction for my trip, other than just another guy on a BMW riding around the world taking pictures. I knew I was going to get a bit tired of that and it's been done hundreds of times already.
So Mandy, in typical Mandy fashion, threw out one of her nuggets, "Don't worry, it'll find you" she says.
My first cause was Team RWB, although my contributions from over here in EU are next to impossible. Getting involved with TeamRWB was all Mandy's doing, as she became involved with them through her Triathlon lifestyle and I ended up photographing some of the events they held, the TeamRWB Sept 11th 10yr Anniversary Memorial Run being one.

So it's a year and a half later and I'm now over here in Europe, my sidecar is completed and I'm on my way to ride up to see friends in Sweden and from there head up to Nordkapp in Norway, the northernmost point of mainland Europe.Knivskjellodden is the most northern point of Europe, located on the island of Mageroya, which I would like to hike out to, but in late October chances that it will be closed due to weather are a possibility. But I'm gonna try.
After Nordkapp I ride over and down to St Petersburg Russia via Finland and from there over to Yaroslavl for the Black Bears MC Rally on the 5th of December, which I was invited to by a group of Black bears and Rolling Anarchy riders who came down to the EGT in Luxembourg in August.




So a few days before I was leaving for Germany I realized that I had no Russia maps or GPS maps, the bookstore in Uden had Russia maps, but in Dutch. Dohh!!.
So a quick run down to a larger bookstore in Eindhoven where they had a better selection was in order.

And that's where the universe steered me toward Nikkie.


Nikkie had a boyfriend Frank who died last year, Sept 10th, of bone cancer.
As I was paying her for my purchases she mentioned she has a motorcycle of her own and the conversation of my RTW trip came up. And then she said she had seen me on TV, I guess from the film crew that interviewed me in Eindhoven a few months back. She seemed so genuinely excited to meet me so I asked her if she wanted to come outside to get a picture of her on my bike for her scrapbook, a nice memory for her. So looking over at her boss she politely declined and said she really couldn't. I left it at that, said bye, gave her a card to my website and went out to the bike, but the way it ended just didn't sit right with me. 
It was bugging me that I wasn't able to give her a picture with my bike and as I was walking out there was that moment of indecision, should I go back and push it or just go on my merry way?. 

I put the Maps in the bike, grabbed a camera and thought to myself that I really should of tried a little harder to get her that picture. I mean, it's going to be a long time before I'm back through Eindhoven, so maybe I'll just go in and ask her boss if it's ok. Yep, I'll give that a shot. 
So thats what I did. I went back in, asked permission from her boss, he went to go find her, and as she was coming out I could see the big smile on her face, so happy that I was back. Good, now I'm glad I went back in to the store, just to see her smile like that.

We chatted a bit as we walked out to the bike, I took some pictures of her and tha outfit and when I was done she looked at me and said "Do you have a mailing address I can send something to you"?.
"Well, ummm, not really" says I, "I'll be in Sweden in a few weeks if that's any help".
So she started to tell me the story of her ex-boyfriend Frank, who, at the age of 23, lost his battle with bone cancer, and I guess sitting on the bike and seeing the journey I'm on brought up some memories.
In the hospital Frank had put some things in an envelope for Nikkie, he knew he wasn't going to come out of the hospital alive again. There was a necklace Nikkie had made for him with a personal meaning that was in the envelope that he gave her, she wore it after he died, but hadn't put it on for 3 or 4 months now.
She wanted to give it to me, and she asked me if I would mind taking it with me on my journey, "Just throw it anywhere in the sidecar" she said. 
She wanted Frank to have "A moment of freedom", the trip he never got to take, because it's "something he would of loved to do".


I had the necklace laminated to preserve it and so I can tape it beside Nikkie's signature on the dash.

I met Nikkie the next day at Usine, we had some coffee, talked about Frank and what she went through. I wanted to get some more of her story and record it, maybe in the future she may like it to look back on.


 "Usine", French for Factory, is the restaurant located on the ground floor of the former Philips lamp factory in Eindhoven in the Netherlands.

In the mens room.



After Nikkie signed the Drive Away Cancer sticker I have on the dash of the sidecar, I got to thinking about doing a "Ride Away Cancer", a motorcycle or sidecar version of what John Nikas had started back in the US over a year ago, so I contacted John and ran it by him and fortunatly for me loved the idea and 3 days later he set up a Ride Away Cancer Facebook Website.

For those who don't know about Drive Away Cancer and what it's about,
 this link will explain it's beginnings.




So, on Monday morning, Oct 1st, I leave Germany for Denmark with
 "Ride Away Cancer" and Frank Janssen as my first passenger. 



View Larger Map

The route I'm going to take is an approximate, ballpark, kinda sorta route that I "think" I'm going to take. The reason it's so "kinda sorta" is that I've learned the reason or reasons, for me anyway, to not plan so much or so far ahead and have an itinerary written in stone, with accommodations booked for each night and so on. I tried that once at the beginning of my journey in year 1 and all that planning doesn't really work for me too well.
I really live for seeing what the day or evening holds, who I may meet, where I may end up. If I can't get a cheap hostel anywhere I can always go behind a building or a gas station and throw down my sleeping bag and Stealth Camp. No one knows your there. I've camped in some great places by going in stealth mode.


So from here on in my postings will probably be even more sporadic and totally internet/civilization dependent, so as I travel I hope you understand this and don't think I'm slacking on my updates and blog articles.
I hope to get to my friends in Vejbystrand, Sweden by the end of the week, and after 4 days or so there start my trek up to Nordkapp, Norway.


My Russian Visa starts on Nov 15 and is good for 3 months. The Black Bears MC Rally in Dec 5th in Yaroslavl Russia, so I need to be in St. Petersburg by the 15 or 16th to give myself at least a week or ten days to take in as much of the city as I can in such a short amount of time.
Riding in these winter conditions for long periods of time is all new to me, I've been in -20° in Colorado before, but never had to ride long distances in it, so honestly, I'm hoping I have most of my bases covered when it comes to warm and protective clothing and other items that I may need in order to survive winter in Russia and come back with all my fingers and toes. 
Another factor I'm not too familiar with is how far I can actually ride each day in conditions like that, I guess that'll depend on how bad or severe the weather is. 500km a day in normal summer riding conditions can be cut down to 200kms  or even 100kms a day in bad winter conditions.
I have really no idea what to expect in terms of travel conditions and just how cold riding in -40° is, but I'll never know unless I go and give it a shot. I may or may not make it all the way, but I'm trying not to think to much about all the negative possibilities that may or may not happen.

I will try to update this blog as often as I can and also my Facebook Page.



Murph.



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